There’s a dirty little secret in health care that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: Female patients are continuously gaslighted about their physical and mental health.
Whether it’s heart disease labeled as anxiety, an autoimmune disorder attributed to depression, or ovarian cysts chalked up to “normal period pain,” many women’s health issues are likely to be misdiagnosed or dismissed by doctors as something less critical.
One study published in Academic Emergency Medicine found that women who went to the emergency room with severe stomach pain had to wait for almost 33% longer than men with the same symptoms.
In 2022, recognition that female health and wellness impacts the global population and represents a cornerstone of any healthy society was demonstrated by organizations throughout the world. The World Economic Forum identified the investment in improving women’s health as vital to creating a “healthier, more equitable world for all” and estimated that a $300 million investment in research for better female health could improve both direct healthcare economics and indirect productivity costs, leading to a return of $13 billion.
The term “FemTech” was originally coined by Ida Tin, the founder of Clue, a period tracking app, who introduced it during her discussions with (mostly male) investors and almost accidentally created the new category.
FemTech solutions such as trackers, wearables, and at-home diagnostics allow women to take a greater role in managing their health and health data. The FemTech sector is primarily concerned with addressing the whole lived experience of women, so innovations in this category usually fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Menstruation & Period Care Products
- Fertility & Birth Control
- Chronic Conditions & Hormonal Disorders
- Uterine Health
- Pelvic Health
- Pregnancy & Post Pregnancy
- Breast Feeding
- Sexual Wellness
- General Healthcare
Opportunities are Accelerating
As business and investment opportunities in women’s health accelerate, FemTech is helping to match capital and talent to unmet needs— with promising early results. The focus on women’s healthcare enables better outcomes for women patients and consumers, investors, and other stakeholders across the value chain, and society at large.
Depending on scope, estimates for FemTech’s current market size range from $500 million to $1 billion. Forecasts suggest opportunities for double-digit revenue growth.
On the digital health front, FemTech companies currently receive 3 percent of all digital health funding. And, there’s a concentration in maternal health patient support, consumer menstrual products, gynecological devices, and solutions in fertility.
In some cases, FemTech companies are filling gaps not yet addressed by biopharma and device incumbents, such as in the area of maternal health. Yet this is clearly, and promisingly, only the beginning of what FemTech can address. There are still significant white spaces in areas like:
- Digital Devices
- Educational Platforms
- Medical Procedures
- Consumer Packaged Goods
- Healthcare Software
- Therapeutic Drugs
On the Cusp of Disruption
Initial breakthroughs are already being achieved across a range of areas, including the following:
- Improving care delivery: Virtual clinics, innovative brick-and-mortar clinics, and direct-to-consumer prescription delivery services, all enable women to access care in a more convenient, consumer-centric manner.
- Enabling self-care: Trackers and wearables and at-home diagnostics are among the FemTech solutions that are helping women take greater charge of their health and health-related data on a daily basis.
- Improving diagnoses: Clinical diagnostics companies are pushing the scientific frontier to address unmet medical needs in areas such as endometriosis and preterm birth.
- Addressing stigmatized areas: Some companies are addressing what had been considered to be stigmatized topics head on, such as menstrual health, sexual health, pelvic care, and menopause.
- Delivering culturally sensitive and tailored care: Solutions tailored for sub-populations are emerging for Black women, LGBTQ+ populations, and women in low- and middle-income communities.
Looking forward, we’re anticipating that as the “ownership of” care shifts from the doctors’ office to women themselves, the need for remote patient monitoring and direct-to-patient diagnostics will continue to grow in relevance and can have a substantial positive impact for both investors AND the health of all women.